Connecting Classes Rationale

Connecting Classes is both a teaching practice project and a research project, the outcomes of which (as with all research at Open Lab) we’ll be looking to disseminate as a gold open access publication.  I've never had the opportunity to do this before and am only now learning what it means. I know it's divisive ("gold" meaning people paying to be open access) and especially amongst the Open community, but I've been given the opportunity and so it seems only reasonable and appropriate to open it up to my friends in the Open community too.

I’m also mindful that you can’t do this sort of research without likeminded collaborators and so if you'd like to take part in trialling some of the technologies and techniques that we've employed in our open classes, both inside and outside of traditional learning environments then please email me, jonathan@phonar.org . If nothing else, maybe its a chance  for those of us who are committed to the craft of teaching and pushing the teaching agendas in universities, to also afford the REF outputs and recognition enjoyed by our pure-research colleagues.

The plan is we’ll run a minimum of three classes in the mode of an adapted Phonar class. Gather and analyse each other's data (and don't worry if you’ve not done this before because we’re going to peer support) and produce what will hopefully become a 4 star publication, with a co-author list that includes everyone who’s been involved so we can all return it for the REF.  I can imagine at least 30 or 40 authors and in that case we’ll also organise a collaborative writing event for the purpose (the people working at CERN's Large Hadron Collider in 2015 had 5,154 authors  so there's already a precedent).

If you'd like to learn more and/or get involved please tell me, I'm @jonathan_worth and/or jonathan@phonar.org .

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Part of the stimulus for this project which has grown out of PhonarEd and Connected Courses, was working with a class at Newcastle University called the Future of Learning and seeing a very different application of the methods and lessons we'd learned from previous open and connected learning projects. It presented an opportunity to design a scaffold that could be employed by anyone, teaching any subject who wanted to draw on the affordances of the connected classroom.

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The instructor in this class chose to adopt a much more laissez faire interpretation of the connected mode of delivery that I'd designed, a vision being more one of “self organisation”. And the outcomes were immediately very different from my classes, so I began to map everything I was experiencng both spatially and  temporally (with the affordances of the techniques) versus the class the instructor would be experiencing by solely employing the technologies.

The yellow dots below mark out the spatial movements of the instructor for the duration of the class, the red dots denote the spatial origins of the class questions. The relative sizes of the dots indicate the frequency of engagement.  From that you can see that in weeks one , two and three the classes were dominated by the instructor and three participants from the room. But, there was a thriving concurrent class conversation happening online via Twitter, both inside and outside of the classroom (indicated by the blue dots).

This meta-class conversation was much more inclusive, equitable and unhitched from the rigidity of the broadcast format, you can see it even spilled over between weeks one and two where there were 649 tweets and again even further into more reflective sharing on the student's blogs and some blog commenting.

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Linked to the image below are the tweets as an archive c/o Martin Hawksey's TAGS and a spreadsheet of the tweets and blog links from the first three sessions, it's by no means conclusive (the class ran five sessions, not three) and the data was gathered retrospectively in response to the approach of the instructor and inconclusively, so the Connecting Class project looks to address these shortcomings and to explore some more of the ways that participants are using the various social media environments.

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